Mata shows why she was born to play ball

Clifton Jones

At the age of 9, junior goalkeeper Kimberly Mata’s coaches knew there was something different about her.

When the coaches approached Mata’s mother, Toni, they said her daughter was different from her teammates.

“[Her coaches] would come up to me and say ‘she has real talent, she can go far with soccer’,” Toni Mata said. “I always knew she had that it factor when she was 9, but I just didn’t know what that it was.”

Kimberly Mata started playing soccer at 4-years-old when her mother and father pushed her to play a sport to stay active.

Kimberly Mata played other sports when she was younger but soccer was never too far from her mind.

“I played a couple sports including volleyball, but I stopped to focus completely on soccer when my parents asked me to choose one sport,” she said.  

Kimberly Mata played the midfield position for most of her life, but it was not until late in her freshman year at St. Mary’s High School in Stockton that she really got a taste of being a goalkeeper. Her coach at the time moved her up to the varsity squad the week before her team started the CIF playoffs.

After her first playoff game, there was no looking back for Kimberly Mata. She became the starting goalie for the varsity team in her next three years at St. Mary’s High School.

Even though she had the talent to play soccer at the next level, Kimberly Mata was not sure if playing college was right for her.

Kimberly Mata didn’t look at any schools until her senior year when her hunger to play soccer competitively continued to grow. She asked her coach to give her a list of 10 schools that needed a goalie and she chose two schools from that list.

Kimberly Mata said she chose to apply to Holy Names University in Oakland and Sacramento State because she wanted to give it a shot.

“Both offered [scholarships] but I really liked Sac State more,” Kimberly Mata said. “My recruiting trip really sold me on going to Sac State. I was able to see how the team practiced and played with each other.”

It was in Kimberly Mata’s senior year at St. Mary’s High School where Sac State women’s soccer head coach Randy Dedini saw his future goalie play.

“When I first saw her, I saw the raw talent she possessed from being a goalkeeper and a field player,” Dedini said. “She is very strong with her feet in order to play a backpass and her quick reflexes to block the shots.”

Kimberly Mata played behind both Hornet goalkeepers Savannah Abercrombie and Shelby Tomasello in her first two years at Sac State.

When Kimberly Mata got her chance this year, she took advantage by grabbing the starting job and was voted team captain.

“She is very composed on and off the soccer field and her leadership qualities earned her a captain spot in her first year starting,” Dedini said. “Kim leads by example very well for our team by showing the care for her teammates.”

In her first year as a starter at Sac State, Kimberly Mata ranks in the top-100 in both total saves and save percentages along with being tied for fifth place in school history in single game total saves with 12.

The junior reached that mark twice this season against Cal Poly and the University of Montana.

If it was not for her parents driving her back and forth from practice when she was young, Kimberly Mata would not be where she is today on the soccer field at Sac State.

“I am very thankful for what my parents did for me to continue to play soccer when I was younger. They made sure to wake up at 6 a.m. to take me to practice and games,” Kimberly Mata said. “My parents never relied on anyone to take me where I needed to go.”